Belfast loves screen sirens

Published Thursday, 21 February 2013
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While actors and actresses gather in Hollywood for this weekend's Oscars, Belfast will be rolling out the red carpet for stars from the golden era.

Images of silver screen sirens including Ava Gardner and Greta Garbo will be on display at Queen's Film Theatre as it celebrates local artist Christine Trueman's solo show.

The pieces in the Screen Lovers exhibition hark back to the 1930s when the movie industry was very different and actors were under contract with big screen studios, a topic that sparked the artist's interest.

Christine Trueman image.

"I'm fascinated by the whole era of Hollywood when the studios owned the celebs and moulded them into what they wanted them to be, and made some have cosmetic surgery," Christine explained, "so my images are very contrived and stylised but there's a hint of something real about them."

Viewed through Christine's eyes, the actresses who were once at the whim of the studio bosses have now been given a voice.

"With Ava Gardner especially it was her lips that are just so luscious and I focus on them and the idea was that they're slightly more realistic, vocally," she added.

But the industry at that time was male-dominated, from the moguls of MGM, RKO and Universal, to the telling moniker 'The King' given to actor Clark Gable.

It is the first time Christine has applied her highly textured pop art-influenced style to men and she said the male stars needed a different approach.

"It's the men's eyes that I've chosen to make a bit more realistic, to give a glimpse of what they are when you strip down their own facade that they lived behind.

"Painting men was a challenge for me but I'm happy with how they've turned out."

Christine Trueman marilyn resized.

One of the most recognisable images in the collection is Marilyn Monroe, and the star's presence is also felt in the Andy Warhol exhibition that is currently running at The MAC.

"I always said I wouldn't paint a Marilyn Monroe because it was too commercial," said Christine, "but you couldn't possibly have the golden era of Hollywood without having Marilyn in it. I really enjoyed doing her, she has such a fantastic face.

"I suppose the fact that Marilyn Monroe has been such an iconic figure that Warhol used as well, it's definitely been an influence," she explained.

The exhibition combines pop art, old-fashioned movie posters and some of the most iconic images of the last century, but looking forward Christine said it's hard to identify who will be the stand out stars of the 21st century.

"Pop stars really nowadays have a bit more of the limelight than the actresses," she said.

"To me the Oscars were like The X Factor of the day - the studios paid all this money and pushed those people forward and moulded them into what they wanted them to be. I think it's more of an open playing field now."

Christine's work has gained popularity across Northern Ireland, with her Kate Moss piece earning pride of place at Belfast Fashionweek - and she told me Angelina Jolie could be the next star to get the Truman treatment.

The Screen Lovers exhibition opens at the QFT on Sunday 24 February and runs until Friday 8 March.

© UTV News
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Sara Neill
Sara Neill

Sara Neill joined UTV's Webteam as an online journalist in 2011, previously having worked for radio and print outlets.

She has covered a range of topics, from the Saville Report to the Royal Wedding or new sounds on Northern Ireland's music scene and fashion shows.

In her spare time, she likes to read poetry and 1960s American literature and blog about all things makeup, hair and beauty.

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